Back in the Loop

Parade belts are on display in this ceremonial assembly of the Swarthmore fire company from 1904.

Parade belts are on display in this ceremonial assembly of the Swarthmore fire company from 1904.

When Walter Reynolds visited town in September for a Swarthmore High School class reunion, he stopped by the firehouse to present an antique fireman’s parade belt that had turned up at his home in Charleston, S.C. His gift brought smiles to the faces of old firefighters like him, including two men fully steeped in the history of Swarthmore and its Fire and Protective Association.

Larry Luder, president of the Swarthmore fire company’s historical association, has seen a lot of SF&PA artifacts in nearly 50 years with the company, but said “This belt is the only one we’ve ever seen. It goes back to horse and wagon days, before motorized firefighting equipment,” which came to Swarthmore in the early 20th century. Luder said the belt would have been worn ornamentally and often, cinching the waist of a long black double-breasted coat. “Parades in those days were numerous, long and mighty.”

When SF&PA secretary Bill Titus and Luder met Mr. Reynolds at the Swarthmore firehouse this fall, both men recalled Reynolds as a member of the fire company. “He had been a volunteer since 1961, and was secretary when Larry and I joined in 1967, shortly before Mr. Reynolds moved to Florida,” Titus said. He regrets not being able to provide a ride on a fire truck during his September visit, but hopes to make it up to him by proposing Reynolds for honorary life membership in the SF&PA.

(Left to right) Larry Luder holds the parade belt brought back to Swarthmore Fire & Protective Association by Walter Reynolds, where he was met by company secretary Bill Titus.

(Left to right) Larry Luder holds the parade belt brought back to Swarthmore Fire & Protective Association by Walter Reynolds, where he was met by company secretary Bill Titus.

As he showed off the leather parade belt embossed with SWARTHMORE, Swarthmore Fire and Protective Historical Association (SFPHA) president Larry Luder mused, “Maybe seeing this donation will shake some more gear out of people’s closets.” If you’re interested in donating fire company gear or browsing the collection of the SFPHA, call Luder at (484) 574-8339 to arrange a meeting.

And on the subject of donations … the Swarthmore Fire & Protective Association relies on financial support from the Borough and its residents for most of its budget. Its annual fund drive is under way now; please join your neighbors in giving generously. Donations can be made online using credit cards and Paypal through swarthmorefd.org/donations.

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